MATALAN has been given planning permission to open a branch at Junction One Retail Park after making late changes to its plan to take over the unit occupied by the ailing Superbowl bowling alley.
Despite opposition from Rugby First and the Clock Towers shopping centre, who argued the cut-price clothes store could be accommodated at the Clock Towers if its mooted expansion went ahead, the application was approved when it went before the council’s planning committee last Wednesday.
Plans to add a second floor to the building were due to be refused in April on the basis Matalan had not carried out a study on the impact it would have on the town centre.
But the second floor element was withdrawn just days before the application was due to be decided, bringing the floorspace of the proposed shop below 2,500 square metres and meaning a town centre study was not required under current planning rules.
A spokesman for the Superbowl said there was not yet any timetable in place for its closure, and that business would continue as usual until further notice.
Planning officer Owain Williams argued the proposed expansion of the Clock Towers centre to Evreux Way – in serious doubt after out-of-town rival Elliott’s Field was also given permission to expand – was not concrete enough to provide a viable alternative site for Matalan.
He said: “As there has been no clarity given upon the availability of the Evreux Way site, the council would share the doubts stated by the applicants that the site realistically might not be available for up to 10 to 15 years, if at all, therefore rendering the site currently unavailable.
“Taking this into account, along with the fact that Matalan could be trading from the unit before the year is out, it is considered that it would be unreasonable to expect Matalan to wait 10 to 15 years for a town centre site to be developed.”
Bus company Stagecoach, which had previously argued it would be unable to provide any services to the retail park because there were no credible public transport links, has now withdrawn its objection.
Residents’ objections the bowling alley should be kept as a vital part of the community were dismissed, as it does not fall under the planning policy definition of a ‘local service or community facility which forms the hub of a community, that meets the day to day needs of that community/local area’.
A Junction One spokesman told the Observer last November there was a lack of demand for the bowling alley, which had led to it being heavily and unsustainably subsidised for the last three years.
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